"The Second Time Around"
"I waited 40 years to sing this song. You gotta be a grownup!", declared Karen Wyman before breaking into the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer standard "Come Rain or Come Shine". It was only one of many musical gems in Ms. Wyman's new show "The Second Time Around", the singer's long-awaited major return to performing in 25 years. The venue was the New York City cabaret hotspot The Metropolitan Room. In a way, the show was a "can't miss" from its conception: an expertly-chosen selection of crowd-pleasers by Jerry Herman, Cole Porter, and many others sung by a lovely lady who knows how to "bring them on"! The audience knew just when the big moments of those songs were gonna come... and when Karen Wyman gave us those big moments, they sounded every bit as great as we were expecting them to be.
The Wednesday evening show opened with a black-and-white screen shot of "Miss Karen Wyman" alongside nightlife legend Dean Martin in the last year of the sixties, when the wide-eyed 16-year performed on Martin's TV show. The look in both their faces in that photo is no less than magical. Apparently, Martin was bewitched by the teen's vocal skills: He referred to Karen as "the most beautiful voice in a long, long while". The song that Wyman performed that memorable night in 1969 was "Hurry! It's Lovely Here"-- a true anthem for the upcoming, much-anticipated spring season... and, as the singer entered the stage, the audience was sprung forward to 2014. Wyman's voice is just as strong and unblemished as ever; her delivery and onstage presence is dynamic; and her joy of performing really shines through. She declared shortly after her entrance: "This is OUR second chance, OUR second take, OUR second life!" before launching into "Second Time Around". Given the story behind Wyman's career, the song couldn't be more fitting. Indeed, Wyman did occasionally (and mirthfully) touch upon the reasons for her hiatus from performing. However, after hearing her hit some truly bold notes in "The Best is Yet to Come" or her triumphant and joyful take on Cole Porter's "Night and Day", the reasons for her initial rise to fame became damn clear. (To put it another way: True talent never really goes away!) A prime example of the "adult" Wyman was heard in her rendition of "After You're Gone". It was smooth, sultry, and sexy-- and her delivery of the song increased slowly in its intensity like a coming storm. Indeed, she can BELT!
Wyman was accompanied by a three-man band, but opted for adornment by piano alone for "Where Do You Start?" The heartache and joy of the lyrics, as well as the emotion on the singer's face, was brilliantly spotlighted by the Metropolitan Room's intimate setting. The song segued into "A House Is Not a Home", where Wyman's voice alternated between that famous belt and a more ethereal, almost girlish tone. The mood of the set turned playful a bit later with Wyman's tribute to her idol and fellow Bronxite Eydie Gorme, with some closet classics just aching to be heard again like "Blame It on the Bossa Nova". When we hear Wyman's stunning performance of Irving Berlin's "Always", we think that this is indeed the musical crown jewel of the night... until the breathtaking final number. (And no, I am not saying what it was! But I will say that Wyman revealed that when she first sang it at age 16, she couldn't give it the justice it deserved. Today, she can...)
That night, Karen Wyman's audience at The Metropolitan Room ranged in age from twenty-somethings to those who likely remember seeing her on TV as a teen singing phenomenon. The age range was vast, but the delight was unanimous. We can only hope, to borrow from one of the songs performed that night, that "The Best Is Yet to Come" from this star. We'll be waiting!
"The Second Time Around" continues at The Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, on Wednesday March 19th and the 26th at 7PM. For reservations, call (212)206-0440. For more info, visit www.MetropolitanRoom.com.